Lucas, Poitier Will Get Lincoln Medal at Ford's Theatre Reopening; McDonald to Perform

News   Lucas, Poitier Will Get Lincoln Medal at Ford's Theatre Reopening; McDonald to Perform
Ford's Theatre Society will host a starry Grand Reopening Celebration on Feb. 11 at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC.
Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald Photo by Michael Wilson

The invitation-only evening will include the presentation of the Lincoln Medal to filmmaker George Lucas and screen legend Sidney Poitier, "whose accomplishments exemplify the character and lasting legacy of President Abraham Lincoln."

The evening's performance, titled Birth and Rebirth: A Celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial and Reopening of Ford's Theatre, will be followed by a seated dinner at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The evening will begin at Ford's Theatre, where invited guests will enjoy a special performance in tribute to Abraham Lincoln and his legacy, including appearances by Katie Couric, Kelsey Grammer, James Earl Jones, Ben Vereen, Jeffrey Wright, the President's Own Marine Band, Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music, Audra McDonald and Jessye Norman. Following the performance, guests dine at the National Portrait Gallery.

The performance will be attended by donors to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Campaign, which supports the renovation and expansion of Ford's Theatre, as well as by political supporters of Ford's Theatre.

After a multi-month renovation, Ford's was relit (starting Feb. 3) with the first preview of the world premiere of James Still's The Heavens Are Hung in Black, a look at the President Abraham Lincoln's life in 1862. David Selby stars as Lincoln. *

The Lincoln Medal is an annual award given by the Ford's Theatre Society to a person (or persons) who, "through their body of work, accomplishments or personal attributes, exemplify the lasting legacy, and mettle of character embodied by the most beloved President in our nation's history, President Abraham Lincoln." Recipients of the 2008 Lincoln Medal included Dr. Maya Angelou, Civil Rights activist, author, dancer and actress; actress Ruby Dee; Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, The Johns Hopkins Hospital; and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Former Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court.

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Campaign is a $50-plus million capital campaign that will support the renovation of Ford's Theatre and its museum as well as the building of the new Center for Education and Leadership, an education center focused on the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. To date, the campaign has raised more than $49 million.

The Ford's Theatre renovation and expansion project has been made possible primarily through donations from private sources — individuals, foundations and corporations — as well as $8.9 million in federal funding and a recent $10 million grant from the District of Columbia. As the lead corporate donor, ExxonMobil has awarded the campaign a $5 million Leadership Circle grant and the State of Qatar has joined them with a $2.5 million gift. More recently, the Leadership Circle has expanded to include Ronald O. Perelman, Chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., with a $2.5 million pledge. BP America Inc. has provided a $2 million contribution, as well as $1 million dollar donations each from AT&T, Foster Wheeler; General Dynamics, Sheila C. Johnson, Founder of Salamander Hospitality, LLC; T. Boone Pickens Foundation; The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation/Wayne and Catherine Reynolds; David and Alice Rubenstein; The Paul Singer Family Foundation; Samsung; and Toyota.

Since its reopening in 1968, more than a hundred years after the April 14, 1865, assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Ford's Theatre has been one of the most visited sites in the nation's capital. Ford's Theatre "has enthralled visitors because of its unique place in United States history, and its mission to celebrate the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and explore the American experience through theatre and education." For its accomplishments, the organization was honored in 2008 with the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the U.S. government to artists, arts institutions and arts patrons.

Ford's Theatre Society works "to present the Theatre's nearly one million visitors each year with a high quality historical and cultural experience, enhancing the vibrancy of this historic site, an important tool for promoting the ideals of leadership, humanity and wisdom espoused by Abraham Lincoln."

Paul R. Tetreault is director of Ford's Theatre Society, which produces a season of plays and musicals there. Recent works include the nationally acclaimed Big River, the regional premiere of Trying and world premiere of Meet John Doe.

For more information on Ford’s Theatre and the Ford’s Theatre Society, please visit

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